• Kim Piekos

Mother-Son Duo Hit the Books with New Store

By Kim Piekos

The pandemic required many people to pivot from their life routines in 2020. That included 22-year-old Patrick McNeill and his mother, Mary. A student in Lake Forest High School’s Transition Program before the pandemic, Patrick enjoyed working at Homegoods and Walgreens a few days a week. The program transported Patrick to and from his worksites and provided job coaching and training for him. It provided him opportunities for socializing, learning, speech therapy, social work and exercising. Most importantly, it gave him a schedule he could count on.

"The word got out and everything fell into place," says Mary McNeill -- shown with son Patrick -- about their Booksy Books store. But all that changed in March 2020. Patrick was dispatched home with a laptop and no information about when or if he was returning. “That was hard,” Patrick remembers. “It feels good to work.”

That’s when Mary McNeill came up with an idea. She and Patrick, former Glenview residents, had previously volunteered on Saturdays at the Glenview Public Library’s used bookstore in the children’s book section. “Patrick enjoyed being around children’s books he was familiar with as a child and liked dealing with customers,” Mary says.

Remembering this and realizing that Lake Forest Library was not accepting used books during the Covid crisis, Mary and Patrick saw an opportunity. “We were talking about what we could do to stay busy and happened to see a Facebook post where someone was asking who was taking used books,” she recounts. “We said ‘We will!’ The word got out and everything fell into place. Our basement and garage were suddenly overflowing with books.”

In August 2020, they secured a lease in a former law office located at 297 E. Illinois Road, next to Lake Forest Flowers. They spent three months building shelves, repurposing the 450-square-foot office to fit their needs and sorting the books. Booksy Books opened to the public in October.

The mission of Booksy Books is to provide employment to local young adults with disabilities so they can learn customer service and social skills, as well as sorting and organizing skills that will prepare them for work settings. “We’re grateful to have a place for Patrick to go every day, a quiet place where he gets to interact with the public and learn vocational skills working with books,” says his mom, his job coach. “I love books and I love working in the store,” Patrick notes.

Booksy Books boasts an impressive array of books, including newer releases, children’s picture books, readers for kids, young adult fiction, coffee table books, hard and softcover fiction and non-fiction, mass market paperbacks, beach reads, graphic novels, biographies, piano teaching books, vintage books and much more. The store also sells DVDS, record albums, audio books and bookshelf décor, and sells many of its books on Amazon. “We’re so grateful for all of the donations,” Mary says, while adding they are happy to pick up the books from houses.

Excess books are being donated to the upcoming Lake Forest Library Used Book Sale and are donated to Goodwill in Libertyville. If you’re looking for a used book in particular, contact Patrick or Mary at the store. They’ll let you know if it comes in.